The Senate press release:
All Floridians are encouraged to review the proposed redistricting plans and provide their comments and suggestions. The proposals were developed by the Senate Reapportionment Committee based on bipartisan guidelines agreed to by all 24 of the Democrats and Republicans on the committee. All directions to staff and committee procedures have been agreed to in a bipartisan manner by the Senate Majority Leader, Andy Gardiner, and the Senate Minority Leader, Nan Rich. Also agreed to unanimously were instructions to staff to preserve minorities’ access to the political system and avoid retrogression.
“Months ahead of past redistricting schedules and after the most open, transparent and interactive process in Florida history, the Senate committee has produced a product which is fair, sensible and faithful to the law,” said committee chairman Senator Don Gaetz.
Gaetz credited Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Minority Leader Nan Rich with keeping the committee’s deliberations nonpartisan and developing unanimous agreements governing deadlines and procedures.
The proposed committee bills unveiled today contain districts providing voting opportunities for racial and language minorities in areas of fast-growing population in and around Orlando. They were inspired by testimony and proposals from Hispanic groups and citizens based on exceptional increases in primarily Puerto Rican population in the area in recent years.
Consistent with Amendments 5 and 6 added by voters to the State Constitution, the Senate plans protect minority voters from diminishment in the ability to elect candidates of their choice. Protecting minority opportunities, as required by both the State Constitution and federal law, was unanimously agreed to by the Senate committee as a guiding principle for redistricting. Plans also cannot be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.
To a far greater extent than ever before, district lines follow city, county, and geographic boundaries. “Some counties and cities will have more than one senator or congressperson because of dense population,” Gaetz explained.
“Others had to be divided to protect minority voting rights and avoid retrogression. We heard and respected the testimony of hundreds of Floridians who said, ‘Keep our community together.’ Wherever we could, we heeded what people living in communities and neighborhoods told us made sense to them.” Extensive public hearings already have taken House and Senate members to 26 communities across Florida in an unprecedented effort to listen to citizen concerns about how legislative and congressional maps have been drawn in the past and suggestions for better, fairer districts in the future. The hearings attracted just under 5,000 people.
After another period for public comment beginning today, the Senate committee will vote December 6, on whether to introduce the proposal to the full Senate. Members of the public are encouraged to provide suggestions, criticisms and comments by:
· Calling 850-487-5757 or 855-FLA-MAPS toll free.
· Visiting the committee’s Facebook page (search for “Florida Senate Reapportionment Committee”)· Emailing RedistrictFlorida@flsenate.gov
· Sending a “tweet” to @Redistrict2012· Posting video feedback on the committee’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/SenateRedistricting
· Writing the committee at 103 Senate Office Building, 404 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-1100
· Attending the December 6 meeting in person.
· Contacting their own senator or representative. The Florida Channel will develop a video report based on comments received and present it to the committee prior to any vote on the proposed plans.
All comments, whether used by the Florida Channel or not, will be posted on the committee’s website for all senators to review. Gaetz explained that if the Senate committee votes favorably to introduce the bills on December 6, the Rules Chairman and Senate President will likely send the bills back to the Reapportionment Committee for a final vote as soon as the Legislature convenes in early January. This would allow the proposals to be voted on the Senate floor early in the legislative session.